KitchenTigress: Sambal Ikan Bilis (I)

Sambal Ikan Bilis (I)

The good news is, anchovy stocks have doubled because their predators – the type without legs – have declined sharply in numbers.

Hey, that calls for us – the predators with legs – to step up our efforts.

Eat more anchovies, people!

I don't need much persuasion to eat sambal ikan bilis. Salty little fishies and deep-fried peanuts make a perfect ménage à trois with sweet and spicy sambal.

Nasi lemak simply woudn't be complete without some sambal ikan bilis.

No coconut rice?

Never mind, it also goes well with porridge and steamed rice.

Or just eat it on its own, but be warned that once you start nibbling, you won't stop till you eat everything. Which is fine if it's everything on the plate. Just don't go eating every anchovy in the oceans.

How to make sambal ikan bilis

Step-by-step guide

Peanuts and dried anchovies (ikan bilis) are fried, then tossed with sambal. Spicy, crisp, fragrant and slightly sweet, sambal ikan bilis is very moreish.

sambal ikan bilis

  • 40 g lemongrass, white part only
  • 150 g shallots
  • 75 g garlic
  • 20 g ginger
  • 50 g red chillies
  • 15 g dried chillies – trim stems, cut 2 cm long, soak in warm water till soft (about 30 minutes), squeeze dry, discard water
  • 15 g belachan – roast at 150°C or dry-fry over medium-low heat till dry and crumbly
  • 80 ml vegetable oil
  • 20 g tamarind paste – mash with 2 tbsp hot water, drain and discard seeds
  • 30 g palm sugar, roughly chopped

  • vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • 150 g peanut
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 250 g ikan bilis, gutted and split
  • 4 tbsp sugar

  1. Rempah (spice paste): wash, trim, peel and roughly chop lemongrass, shallots, garlic, ginger and red chillies as appropriate. Grind or pound with dried chillies and belachan till smooth. Set aside.

  2. Peanuts: Deep-fry in warm vegetable oil over medium-low heat, stirring, till light brown. This should take 4 minutes or so. Turn off heat. Remove peanuts from oil. Immediately season with salt. Set aside.
  3. Anchovies: Rinse briefly and immediately dry with paper towels. Heat oil till just smoking. Add anchovies and deep-fry over high heat, stirring, till lightly golden. Push anchovies to side of wok. Let oil reheat to just smoking. Stir anchovies into oil and fry till almost golden brown. Turn off heat. Continue stirring till residual heat dissipates. Place anchovies with peanuts.
  4. Sambal: Remove excess oil from wok, leaving about 80 ml. Stir-fry spice paste over medium-low heat till fragrant, colour darkens and oil separates. Add palm sugar. Stir till melted. Add tamarind water. Stir till evaporated. Turn off heat. Remove to a bowl.

  5. Mix: Remove oil from the wok. Over medium heat, stir sugar till melted. Reduce heat to very low. Add peanuts and anchovies. Toss till evenly coated. Add sambal. Toss thoroughly. Taste and add more sugar if necessary. Turn off heat. Remove to a plate to cool down completely.

  6. Serve sambal ikan bilis once it's cool, or store airtight.